If you’re struggling after a layoff, or you're worried you may be laid off soon, we’ve written this guide for you.
Over 137,492* tech workers have been laid off this year. Whether it’s the economic downturn, a hiring freeze, the funding slowdown, structural changes at your company, or budget cuts – layoffs are usually the result of events that are outside of your control.
Even with this context, we know that a layoff can still feel very personal. In one email or unexpected Zoom call you lose your source of income, stability, and a part of your identity. And in its place you may feel anxiety, self-doubt, and sadness instead.
Before we dig into practical advice: we wanted to remind you that those feelings are normal, and you’re going to be okay. This is just a temporary setback and it does not have to define you.
We've prepared a 7 step process to help get you back on your feet and navigate unemployment.
Take a few days to decompress
Assess your financial situation
Consider taking a longer break
Set realistic expectations during your job search
Expand your network and ask for help
Be strategic with your job search
Get clear on how to talk about being laid off
1. Take a few days to decompress
Your immediate instinct after getting laid off might be to jump right into job search mode. Take a couple of days (at least!) to process, grieve, and gain perspective on your situation.
Being laid off tends to be a traumatic experience. You may be feeling shock, denial, anger, exhaustion, sadness, and defeat – it’s normal and important to go through these emotions, especially if your layoff was unexpected. So, be kind to yourself.
Some Elphas have expressed feeling like somebody died when they were laid off while others have compared it to going through a break-up. Like with most traumatic experiences, remember to give yourself some time to heal before moving forward with your life and getting a new job.
Reach out to your support system – friends, family, or the Elpha community. Letting them know that you’ve been laid off can also open unexpected doors for when you’re ready to look for your next opportunity.
Use this time to check in with yourself on how you’re feeling, explore what you want in your next job, and build your confidence back up. Getting into an optimistic mindset before job searching will set you up for success so that you can be proactive in your outreach, confident and assertive in job interviews, and more resilient when you hear no’s. 💪
We also recommend talking to a therapist. Experiencing so many emotions at once can take a toll on your mental health. Therapy can provide you with tools for coping with the emotional impact of a layoff as well as navigating unemployment.
“Having someone to listen to you and give advice on how to manage frustrating and negative emotions/retain self-confidence is so important. I know that finding a therapist can be hard. I used a service called QuartetHealth to get matched with a therapist in-network. For folks who don't have insurance or have a policy with a super high deductible, I really recommend using a service like Talkspace. Having an objective person on your side while you are in the trenches of searching is so important to help you refuel after rejections and help you navigate all the emotions of the job hunt."
“I normally wouldn't have been able to afford a therapist, but I came across an opportunity where a post-doc student was interning at a clinic and they were offering sessions for one-fifth the regular price for patients who were ok with the intern also being in the room and taking notes. That might be a lucky one-off situation, but a lot of universities also have post-doc fellows who offer therapy sessions at a reduced cost. If you live close to a university, that might be an option.” 💙
2. Assess your financial situation
Figure out how much time you can afford to be unemployed. Clarity on your financial situation will help you come up with a timeline for finding your next job.
You may have already prepared for this moment and set aside savings for an emergency fund. If you’re having trouble gauging how long your savings will last, there are several emergency fund calculators to help you figure out how much runway you have.
Depending on your agreement with your employer, you may receive a severance package with pay and benefits when you are laid off. Find out when you will receive your final paycheck and the terms of your severance agreement. Make sure to review your severance agreement to be clear on what you are owed and if there are any clauses that may impact you as you move on. Sometimes it's also possible to negotiate your severance pay and benefits.
It’s also a good idea to contact your state’s unemployment insurance program right after becoming unemployed since finding a new job might take longer than you expect. If you need health insurance, apply for COBRA insurance or a state plan.
Applying for unemployment benefits and health insurance as soon as possible can eliminate some of the pressure to find another job immediately that comes with getting laid off.
3. Consider taking a longer break
After reviewing your finances you might find that you’re in a good place to take a longer career break if you’d like to. A career break may last weeks, months, or even years – however long you need to recover and figure out which direction you want to move in. 🍃
“I believe employers understand that sometimes people need to step back and re-evaluate what they are looking for. If you are able to step back from work for just 2 months, but then can clearly see what you want to pursue, you will be able to with much more passion and excitement than if you just jump at something now.”
Consider this an opportunity to recharge and do the things that you were putting off because you were working full time. Travel somewhere new, read the books you’ve been meaning to read, re-paint your room, do some upskilling or complete a course on a topic outside your area of expertise. This is an opportunity to explore new sources of inspiration.
Nazli Danis explains how picking up a hobby she was interested in, but not necessarily competitive in, became a source of personal empowerment.
“I signed up for a swing dancing class and an adult women's basketball league a couple of months ago. I'm not competitive in either of these, and that has allowed me to enjoy the activities without any performance anxiety. However, just by virtue of putting in the time I've gotten better at them, and that has helped my self-esteem tremendously and put me in a growth mindset. I feel like if I can learn basketball as an adult, I can also learn xyz skill I need for my career. The one final added benefit of these hobbies is that it forces me to get out of the house to socialize on a regular basis.” 🏀
👉 Read Tiffany Bradshaw’s Elpha Spotlight feature to see how she benefited from taking a career break after getting laid off in 2022.
4. Set realistic expectations during your job search
You may be wondering: how long does it take to find a job after a layoff? 🤔
There’s no simple answer to this question. A job search can last from a few weeks to many months, depending on trends in the job market, like the funding landscape for startups, how aggressively companies are hiring and whether unemployment is high.
We recommend that you focus on the parts of the process you can control such as getting clear on what you want in your next job, upskilling, practicing your pitch for recruiters, and keeping an open mind about opportunities you might not have previously considered. Focusing on the elements that you can influence will prevent burnout and will make your process more efficient.
If you are exclusively looking for your dream job, then the length of your search likely depends on how particular you are, and how long you can stretch your financial safety net while you are unemployed. ✨
5. Expand your network and ask for help
Don’t limit your support network to friends, family, and former coworkers. Use the internet to expand your network. Ask your network for intros and connect with peers in your field as well as others who have gone through layoffs.
Let your community on Elpha , LinkedIn or Twitter know that you’ve been laid off and are looking for new opportunities, advice, or resources. The most amazing opportunities can come from the most unexpected places. ✨
Elpha CEO and founder, Cadran Cowansage, shared a few thoughts from her experience getting laid off in 2008:
“I felt really isolated at the time. I didn't want to tell anyone that I'd been laid off, so I was going through the experience by mostly talking to family and close friends. It would have been way less miserable had I leaned on a community of other people like me. I think this is one of the areas where a space like Elpha can be really helpful. If you're feeling like you don't want people to know you were laid off, anon posting on Elpha is here for you.” 💜
Suzanne Scharlock suggests finding others in your field to help you practice for case-style interviews as well as provide resume feedback.
“I met my mentor by reaching out to a friend on Linkedin and asked for an intro to the PM at the place I was interviewing with so I could set up an informational interview with them first. This mutual connection then became a mentor for me who helped edit my resume, practice interviews, etc. This was a bit of a lucky break, a more accessible way to find a mentor is through Elpha! Elpha has a mentor matching service with members who are willing to be mentors.” ✨
If you were part of a mass layoff, it might be helpful to reach out to colleagues who were laid off alongside you. Ladan Ballai , Partner Marketing Manager at AWS, suggests starting a Slack group and inviting all the employees that were laid off from your company.
“I did this at a company when we had a couple of rounds of layoffs due to funding issues and it helped tremendously to boost morale. It was still sh***y that everyone was laid off, but we helped each other land incredible jobs and leveraged each other for referrals within our networks,” she says.
Katrina Kibben , CEO and Founder of HR services company Three Ears Media, shared some strategic tips to tap into your network with intention.
Download your LinkedIn connections to Excel. Then write "yes, no, maybe" i.e. do I want to work with these people/companies?
When you have 3 "yes" – send each one a message. Go back to your spreadsheet and repeat the process. Send 3 messages a day, 3 messages a week, whatever you feel like.
You'll email them and say "some things changed in my world and I'd love to catch up." Use Calendly to make it easy for them to book times when you're available.
Take the call and make them talk about themselves. Don't jump right into what you need or what happened. At the very end, talk about what you want to do every day (not a job title). See if it aligns with a role they're hiring for.
Maya Shaff , Director of Marketing at Witful, strongly empathizes with women who feel they can’t get an intro at a company – much less their dream ones – because they are limited by their network’s reach. She proposes that women leverage communities like Elpha to engage in meaningful and impactful ways to land their dream jobs when it feels like they don’t have an ‘in’.
👉 Learn more about Maya’s main job search takeaways in her Elpha Spotlight feature .
Aileen Baxter , Career Transition Coach at Joblink LLC, recommends conducting strategic networking conversations with select contacts.
“Lead by asking for advice, not a job. Build relationships first, shift your mindset to how you can help your networking contacts so it's a two-way street. It's much more fruitful to spend the majority of your time networking and less time on applications. I promote the 80/20 rule of time management - 80% networking and 20% job applications.”
Lauren Krainski , Product Marketing Manager at Facebook, shares how job hunting while unemployed can be a huge opportunity to leverage your network at a volume and velocity that you are not able to with a job. ⚡️
“I determined my target company criteria (location, size, industry, role, parental leave, expected comp) and then narrowed my list to 10-15 companies.
Next, I made a matrix of specific activities I wanted to do in my next role, how much experience I have in that area, and then what kind of work I'd want to do to "level up" in each of these.
I reviewed this with a couple of folks who helped me bucket that into target functions/titles.
Then, I trawled LinkedIn to find 1st and 2nd-degree connections at these companies/relevant functions + sent the list around to colleagues with big networks. Definitely don't be afraid to put that out here on Elpha, either!
Along the way, I basically created a low-tech "CRM" in a Gsheet to track my outreach and their intros, which was effective for follow-up and further ideation.
Like any flywheel, it took a couple of weeks to get going, but a few weeks in, I was having 10-12 coffees/week, which was super encouraging. People really wanted to help, and at no point did anyone seem to care AT ALL that I was laid off. And they won't care that you were either - it happens!”
6. Be strategic with your job search
Erin Andersen , Career Transition Coach at Your Brand Networker LLC, emphasizes the importance of preparation so that you can stay clear-headed during your job search.
“That starts with the mindset and then making sure all of your applicant tools are ready – such as your resume, LinkedIn or Elpha Talent Pool profile . Once you are laid off, you will likely enter a form of transition - the spectrum of transition is huge! - and need to improve the way you perceive yourself. You can't brand yourself for the next position without revealing what it is that you truly want to do.”
That transition can come in the form of a new company, a new industry, or an entirely different role. Step back and think about what you loved about what you have done and categorize those things. What skills did you enjoy using? What about the industry did you enjoy or find challenging? What personalities made for the best coworkers for you and why?
Michelle Carrizosa , Founder and Career Coach at The Tech Career Lab, explains that one of the best uses of your time when you are in transition after a layoff is to measure and quantify your impact at your old organization. Make sure that your resume is telling the best story possible of how you can help your new team solve a problem. 📊
She also suggests redirecting some of your effort away from reactive activities like applying for jobs right away, toward proactive activities like posting on LinkedIn or Elpha so that more recruiters DM you.
“It's so easy to think that reactive actions like applying to everything will get results, but I've noticed that when 3 months go by and still there's no answer, it becomes an extremely awful situation to be in. So focusing on proactive actions that slowly but surely build momentum ends up actually shortening the timeline from now until you get your next job.”
💼 Join the Elpha Talent Pool to be matched with a workplace that align with your target company criteria. Filter through 1000+ open roles by team size, location, funding stage, culture and even % of women in leadership.
7. Get clear on how to talk about being laid off
You may feel hesitant about mentioning your layoff during job interviews, but Katrina Kibben says there’s no need to hide a layoff.
“Explain what happened to the company - because that's what happened. The company failed, not the person who was laid off. Tell them the reason and simply say ‘I was impacted by that change.’ It can be that simple. Don't focus on it or over-explain. The job interview is for sharing your skills, not explaining business layoffs.” 👈
Here are some more examples of how you can talk about your layoff from Janine Davis , Executive Coach at Evolution:
“I was part of an overall layoff that affected 25% of our employees, due to financial cutbacks.”
“My entire department was outsourced, and as a result, I was laid off with the rest of my team.”
Getting laid off is rough. You’ll have good days and bad days, so take it easy on yourself. The important thing is to approach your job search with a proactive and positive mindset, practice self-compassion, and stay open minded.
We hope these tips and resources help make your career transition a bit easier to navigate and that you find the support you need in the Elpha community as you start this next chapter.
👀 Have you created a profile in the Elpha Talent Pool ? It's where companies can reach out to you based on your interest, experience, and values!
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